A Few Questions For Kay Hanley. Hannah Montana Back Up Singer & All Around Artist Extraordinare
She’s a musician. She’s a mom. She’s a Miley Cyrus back-up singer. She’s amazing. Listen in on our chat with solo artist and Letters to Cleo lead singer, Kay Hanley.
Since we are a Mom-centric site, would you mind sharing a little bit about your children? Are they musical?
Having grown up in a house with all music all the time, Zoe Mabel (9) and Henry (6) are surprisingly chill about music, especially learning instruments, which they are not really interested in. I guess it's sort of like growing up in a house where the parents are bankers: BORING! They both have excellent singing pitch though, and they don't seem to care. Funny how life works.
You’ve made the very challenging -- and not too uncommon for those in the entertainment industry -- home-base change from East Coast to West Coast. Could you tell us what prompted that transition, and how’s it going?
I was (and still am to a degree) a dyed in the wool, Irish Catholic Boston townie. My husband had always wanted to move to NY or LA but I was resolute in my opposition. After the kids were born, my desire to go tour on the road dwindled, and therefore, so did my opportunities. In order to earn income, my husband Michael started touring with other bands, which at first was A-OK with me. But then I saw the writing on the wall; I was looking at a life where my husband would be gone all the time and I would be raising the children effectively alone. Then Henry got sick. When Michael came back from his last tour after the illness, he said “We are moving to LA." I said, "Make it happen and I will go." He did, so I went and never looked back. It was an excellent decision.
Which brings up a related point -- not only are you a songwriter, but you are a skilled blog writer as well! The tale of your near-tragedy  with son Henry was so artfully composed and compelling. Motherhood tends to provide us with those unpredictable, mettle-testing moments. What about motherhood has “surprised” you?
Thank you for saying that. Writing the story about Henry's illness is still one of my proudest accomplishments. I don't know where it came from but I sat down one day and 10 hours later the recollection turned into words. I am so glad I wrote it down before I forgot what happened to our family.
A lot of things surprise me about motherhood, but a couple spring to mind instantly. First of all, why does nobody tell you how terrifying it is to take a baby home from the hospital? Oh yes, it's supposed to be such a biological imperative that moms just "know" how to take care of a baby but, ummm...no. Secondly, the nurses at the Beth Israel in Boston told us that you know what kind of baby you are bringing home when you leave the hospital. I cannot believe how right they were.
Speaking of that, what about your babies’ daddy? Working with a spouse is problematic for some, perfection for others. Would you mind sharing a bit about how you and your husband Michael make it work, or where you fall on that spectrum?
I met Michael when he auditioned for my band. In retrospect, it was love at first sight but at the time I remember having a physical reaction to him that was like "I am in so much trouble right now". For the first 10 years (maybe more) that we were together, we literally spent not one day apart. It was never an issue because we genuinely enjoy hanging out with one another. At this point we have been together for nearly 17 years (married for 11 as of this month) and while we have split up the "family business" quite a bit since we moved, our working relationship still has an intuitive shorthand that still works incredibly well. Besides, he is like, totally wicked cute.
You have done a remarkable job in achieving success in both adult music circles as well as being a very recognizable voice for most of our children. Would you share some of the perhaps unexpected venues where adult fan parents might hear your voice when enjoying more kid-directed entertainments?
Yeah, I can't believe some of the twists and turns my career has taken. Trust me, everything has been by accident because only the silliest person on Earth would say to themselves: "Okay. This is how I'll do it. I'll drop out of college to wait tables and be in an underachieving rock band. Then I'll get photographed smoking, drinking and make sure I do these things a LOT along with swearing all the time in front of journalists and audiences. I'll get married, have a few babies and drop out of sight only to resurface as a person who writes and sings songs for the Care Bears and My Friends Tigger and Pooh. Then I'll go on tour with Miley Cyrus as a back-up singer. Yes. This will totally work."
Teens may also know me and my band as the gal who sang to Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger at the prom in 10 Things I Hate About You. That was fun. So was being Rachel Leigh Cook's voice in Josie and the Pussycats. My job is pretty awesome.
You are so incredibly busy! How do you find balance between mom-ing and music-ing? Do you ever find yourself a victim of “mommy guilt?” What do you do to relax?
There is no balance. My life is walking a constant tightrope, with career on one side and motherhood on the other. I have to sacrifice on both counts sometimes, yet each makes me so much better at the other. When I am not traveling, the one constant is dinner. 5:30pm -7:30pm is for cooking and sitting down together as a family to relax, talk and eat. Nothing makes me happier, to be honest.
Hannah Montana. Your thoughts? Your kids’ thoughts -- from your unique perspective(s)?
I think Hannah Montana is a great show, and Miley is a good role model. My family has a somewhat skewed opinion of the Miley thing, obviously. Zoe Mabel loves the IDEA that mom is in Miley's band but when mom is dragging her suitcase out the door again, I might as well be going to another Tupperware convention. The novelty has worn off somewhat.
Your band, Letters to Cleo, was named as a byproduct of your correspondence with a childhood pen-pal. Would you want your kids to have a pen-pal?
Real pen-pals? Yes! I love handwritten letters, especially in an age where all the rules of language have flown out the window to accommodate technology. If the pen- pals are on the web? No, not so much.
Proudest music moment? Proudest Mommy moment?
Dude, pride is my middle name. It is an everyday occurrence. Most mornings Michael and I wake up and Z + H will have snuck into our bed in the middle of the night. Waking up to those gorgeous, sleeping faces never gets old. Then I go to work at the best job ever. I have to pinch myself sometimes. I am not even kidding.
What’s next on your plate?
I'm gonna press send after I finish this email and see how it goes. After that? Who the heck knows?
Learn more about Kay Hanley by visiting her website/blog at KayHanley.com  or via her MySpace page at www.myspace.com/kayhanley .
Musician and working mother Kay Hanley was interviewed by Cheryl Lage: The author of Twinspiration: Real-Life Advice from Pregnancy through the First Year , Cheryl Lage is a freelance writer/editor and a full-time mom. Her twin-centric perspectives have appeared in a wide array of print, web and broadcast media including: MSN.com, TWINS, Pregnancy, AmericanBaby.com, Parents.com, ePregnancy.com, Martha Stewart Living Radio, iVillage.com, People’s Celebrity Baby Blog, Richmond Parents Monthly, and her own web support site, Twinsights .
Currently, Cheryl Lage lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia, where she is an elementary school room mother — times two! Learn more about Cheryl by visiting her blog, Twinfatuation .
Check out our interviews wtih other working moms who rock: MTV VP of Series Development Liz Gately  and Dreamgirls Broadway musical star Sheryl Lee Ralph .